The Bread of Life Teaching
Jesus performed many miracles during his three years on earth. He cast out demons, cured the sick, and raised the dead. Nothing was beyond His capabilities including feeding an unexpected crowd of more than five thousand (John 6:22-40). Those that have served large crowds understand the enormity of the task of feeding such a big group. The fact that they were fed at all was a miracle. The fact that it was done with only five loaves of bread and two fish makes it an act of God. But despite all these acts of God, the people still could not see the true bread before them.
After the miraculous feeding, Jesus and His disciples took themselves to the other side of the lake with a little walking on water during the night (John 6:16-21). When the day broke and the sun revealed the missing boat the disciples took, they began looking earnestly for them. Upon finding them, they began to question and pester Jesus, but He cuts them off at the pass and gets right to the point. There is no polite talk before getting down to business. He knows that they had received food enough to fill their stomachs and they wanted more.
Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill” (vs. 26 NIV). He knew their true motives. They saw miracles yet they were more focused on filling their stomachs and getting physical desires met. We may criticize them or scoff at their actions, but the fingers should be pointed right back at us. How like them we are!
When we are wanting something, we look high and low for it. In the process we push from our memories the amazing miracles God had performed for us. Those are not so amazing when we want our physical wants and desires met. We focus on them more than the impossible being made into reality.
Jesus points out that the food they crave is perishable. It will decay. It will pass through them leaving them with empty stomachs desiring more. There will always be a need for more. “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (vs. 27 NIV)
The food that is eternal is Jesus. Only God can fill is eternally and never leave us starving. Yet, the crowd does not see this part of what He says. They fixate on the “work”. How like us! We ignore the wonder and focus on the part we play in. We are drawn to the part that involves us. Our self-centeredness comes through. What is the work that they should do? Believe. That is it. Religion tries to make it so hard by going through so many traditions and following certain rules. All we have to do is believe!
What happens is almost ridiculous. The crowd asks for a sign in order to believe Him. They ask for a miracle! They just got two miracles in one the day before. It has already been forgotten. Jesus fed over 5000 people with just enough food for three or four people. Yet, it is not enough for them. They want more. They demand more. Too much of us in this crowd.
As the crowd continues talking about the manna from heaven that Moses and the Israelites received Jesus points out that the true bread from heaven was not given by Moses but from God. It is God who is the source of the true bread that is good for them.
As He continues teaching Jesus points out that He was the bread that God had sent to them. He was what they were seeking for. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (vs. 35 NIV) He is not talking about physical hunger. He is talking about the hunger that the soul has when it screams out in the darkest of nights. He is looking at the deepest of needs that is usually by-passed for the more carnal and easily filled needs. He is getting to the heart of the matter.
With His usual bluntness, He continues, “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” (vs. 36 NIV) They have been around Him. They have seen the impossible done. Yet, it is not enough. They are still demanding more.
Jesus was trying to show them that He was what they were seeking deep down inside. No other bread would satisfy like the bread He offered. This is emphasized later on at the Last Supper when Jesus picks up the bread and declares it as His body. It was not cannibalism. It was symbolism. The bread was solid and needed to survive. It was sought after by all. Yet, it left them hungry. He would not.